Dr Vincent Power, Head of A&L Goodbody’s EU & Competition Group, looks at the potential legal implications arising from Brexit. This article was first published in the Commercial Law Practitioner, May 2016.
The possible withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union—so-called “Brexit”—would raise novel and profound legal issues. Those issues are novel because no Member State has ever left what is now called the EU in its 60-year history. The issues are profound because the EU is—and all sides agree on this point—a key influence on UK law to such an extent that, after 43 years of membership, EU and UK law are intermingled in a way that untangling the two sources of law will be very difficult. Indeed, no one under the age of 50 years of age has any real sense of what the UK is like without EU law.
The short paper below considers some of the legal aspects of Brexit. The observations and conclusions are somewhat tenuous and tentative in nature because not only is it unclear whether the voters in the UK and Gibraltar on 23 June 2016 will vote in favour of leaving the EU but, perhaps more importantly, it is entirely unclear as to what arrangements, if any, would be put in place between the UK and the EU were Brexit to become a reality.
In this respect, it is worth highlighting that the issues are more complex and complicated after a vote to leave than even the issues are currently in the run-up to the vote itself. This latter fact also means that the referendum in June 2016 could well not be the last one because any withdrawal terms (e.g. embodied in a “withdrawal treaty”) could also end up being put to the electorate in a second referendum.
This paper is divided into five parts: an explanation as to why Brexit would be a novel event; a description of the EU legal framework for Brexit; the possible post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU; a selection of the legal issues arising from Brexit; and some conclusions.
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© 2016 A&L Goodbody – a member of the EACCNY